The future of Great Britain and its American colonies looked bright in 1763. The Treaty of Paris signed in that year ended the French and Indian War. Britain now governed all of North America east of Mississippi River, as well as large part of India and some previously disputed islands in the West Indies.
The war had created some tensions between the colonists and the mother country, however. To the indignation of English patriots, many colonial merchants had continued to trade with the French West Indies. Moreover, the colonists had paid only a small part of the cost of the far-flung war. Finally, British Commanders had frequently belittled colonial soldiers for their lack of discipline and military competence. But the colonists’ loyalty to the mother country had stood the test of war. Throughout America, colonists celebrated the British victory and praised both king and mother country. The colonists now hoped to expand their thriving trade. With the French gone from the interior of the continent and hostilities with the Indians diminished settlers began to move across the Appalachian Mountains into the Ohio River Valley and the Kentucky wilderness. In increasing numbers, immigrants arrived to swell the growing population of the colonies.
Both the costs of war and the responsibilities of victory brought new problems to Great Britain. Between 1754 end 1763, Britain’s national debt had doubled and the expenses of administering the empire had steadily increased, with additional possessions in North America, the West Indies, and India. Britain faced the task of reorganizing its increasingly complex colonial system. It wanted better control of territories but it also wanted the colonists to pay for the costs of administration.
Less than twenty years after the American colonies celebrated the British victory over France, they celebrated their own victory over Great Britain in the American Revolution.
Until 1763, the American colonies had enjoyed a large measure of autonomy under the British rule. Great Britain, occupied with its own problems, had controlled the colonies only loosely for a century and a half. Customs officers failed to enforce laws intended to regulate trade and colonial merchants smuggled goods into the country without paying duties. Colonial legislatures paid the salaries of the governors and therefore, exercised considerable influences ever the king’s official representatives. The American colonists had become accustomed to controlling their own affairs.
When the French and Indian war ended, however, Great Britain decided to tighten its control over its large and prosperous empire in North America. The British Government announced a number of measures in rapid succession. The new program began with a thorough reform of the customs service. Britain appointed additional customs officer and instructed them to pay strict attention to their duties or face dismissal. In order to enforce the trade laws, the government directed customs officials to keep accurate accounts of all imports and exports, of revenue collected, and of illegal trade. The governors and army and navy officers were ordered to support and protect customs officials as they carried out their responsibilities to help ease its financial burdens, Parliament needed additional revenue. In addition to enforcing old regulations, Parliament decided to pass and enforce new laws. In 1764, the Sugar Act lowered the tariff on molasses but provided machinery to collect duties. Merchants accused of smuggling were to be tried by judges in Vice-Admiralty courts instead of juries of their peers in civil courts. Colonial merchants complained that the duties would hurt their businesses; colonial lawyers argued that the system of enforcement violated the citizen’s right to a trial by jury.
These changes in taxation and administrative policies touched off a vigorous debate among American colonists about the controls exercised by Great Britain. This debate was carried on in pamphlets and newspapers, and in the colonial legislatures for the next twelve years.
The American Revolution was the first great movement by which a colonial people broke away from an empire. In many ways, it was a model for the revolutions that were to come. It was led not by the poorest and most miserable of the colonists, but by some of the ablest, best-educated and most successful people in the colonies.
Causes of the American Revolution
In order to locate the causes of the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, it is appropriate to examine the various British policies which became the foundations of conflicts in political, legal and constitutional fields.
New British policies toward Colonies
George II was twenty-two when in 1760 he became king or monarch of England. His mother had advised him “George, be a king”. For nearly half a century his great grandfather George I and then his grandfather George II had set upon the throne without exercising real power. Both of them had been more German than English-During their reigns, the Whig party had governed Britain and the empire through Parliament and the Cabinet. The new king followed his mother’s advice. Although he did not abolish the system of parliamentary government, he tried to control it. Disputes often arose between the king and Parliament, and the treatment of the colonies became inconsistent.
1. Undesired Legislation
After the French and Indian War, the British government began its new colonial policy.
2. Royal Proclamation 1763
The first big change came in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which was a response to Pontiac’s Rebellion. That same year. Indians under the Ottawa chief Pontiac had attacked settlers along the frontier, from Detriot to Pennsylvania. The king’s proclamation forbade settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. By keeping colonists out of the Indian country, the king intended to prevent further troubles with the Indians. To the colonists, however, the proclamation seemed an attempt to deprive them to western lands.
3. Several acts of parliament
These were also passed to control the colonists. The Sugar Act of 1764 was designed to stop illegal trade and to raise money. It was applied toward molasses, which was used in making rum. Previously, a duty of sixpence a gallon was supposed to be collected on any molasses brought from the French West Indies to the colonies. Colonial merchants seldom paid the duty, for they usually gave the British customs officials a bribe, averaging about a penny a gallon. At this rate, molasses from the French West Indies was cheaper than the duty-free molasses that came from the British West Indies.
The sugar Act reduced the duty on imported molasses from six to three pennies, but it also provided the strict enforcement of the law. Ships of the royal navy were now to be stationed permanently in North American Waters to watch for smugglers. When caught, lawbreakers were to be tried in the navy’s court, by judges appointed and paid by the British government. In the past, juries in the local courts usually had sympathized with smugglers. With good reason, colonial merchants feared the destruction of their profitable trade with the French West Indies.
The Currency Act of 1764 prohibited the colonies from issuing paper money. Its purpose was to keep colonial debtors from trying to pay their English creditors in paper currency, which was worth less than silver. Its effect would be to discourage business in the colonies since they were always short of coin and needed paper money to carry on business.
Under the terms of the “Quartering Act” of 1765 any colony in which British troops were stationed, was required to provide living quarters and certain supplies for the soldiers. This law was intended to make the colonists support the troops that were sent among them. The colonists, however, could see no reason for the presence of the army. Troops had not been kept in North America before 1754, when there was danger from the French and their indian allies. Why should troops be eliminated?
Preliminary reactions of the colonists
Suspicious colonists thought that the new policy deprived them of their rights to be taxed only by their own elected representatives and to be tried only by a jury of their equals. The colonists also feared that the new policy would end the prosperity. When a business depression came, they blamed it on the sugar Act and the Currency Act.
At first, the colonists only grumbled about the laws and evaded them as best they could. After the passage of an even more unpopular law, however, they resorted to strong words and violent deeds.
The Stamp Act
The stamp Act of 1765 put a tax on legal documents and on newspapers, almanacs and other items. Each of these had to bear a stamp to show that the tax had been paid. The law was designed to raise money to defend the colonies. It was not intended to provoke those colonial leaders — the lawyers and publishers — who could best arouse their fellow colonists. Yet this was the effect of the law. Members of the colonial legislatures soon assembled to discuss the Stamp Act. The Virginia House of Burgesses adopted resolutions that said that the General Assembly had the “sole exclusive Right and Power to lay Taxes on the people of the colony The Massachusetts assembly proposed that all of the colonies send delegates to a congress, or convention, to agree upon joint action.
Nine colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress, which met in New York in September 1765. It drew up resolutions granting “all due subordination” to Parliament but denying its right to tax the colonies. The Congress asked the king and Parliament to repeal both the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act. Congress also called upon the people to back up these demands by refusing to buy British goods.
Merchants in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston refused to import from Britain. Mobs in these and other places took more forceful steps. They attacked stamp collectors and made the resign before they succeeded in selling any stamps. Groups are known as SONS of Liberty, with Samuel Adams of Massachusetts and Patrick Henry of Virginia among the leaders, were formed to organize the resistance to the law.
Arguments by Colonists
After the French and Indian War, the British decided they could no longer afford to neglect their American colonies. The government issued a series of laws and decrees aimed at establishing more effective control over them. Sugar Act placed new duties on sugar, coffee, wine, and certain other imported products id reduced the tax for molasses, while it provided ways to collect all units more effectively.
There were only scattered protests to these first measures But some colonists, such as James Otis, addressed themselves to the basic question of colonial rights within the British Empire. The New York Assembly, in protesting the sugar Act, advanced the argument – no taxation without representation — which the colonies followed in future financial crises with Great Britain, Colonial resistance to Stamp Act took a number of forms. Colonial leaders organized a voluntary boycott of business and legal activities requiring the use of stamps to show that the tax had been paid. Trade came to a halt, and courts of justice closed said virtually all legal papers needed stamps.
Politicians, such as Samuel
Adams of Boston, organized bands of patriots, drawn largely from the ranks of workingmen, who called themselves” Sons of Liberty” They pressured reluctant businessmen to support the boycott and forced Stamp Act officials to resign by their use of threats and violence. Even more significant than this sporadic violence was a meeting in New York of delegates from nine colonies. This Stamp Act Congress was the first really effective act of political cooperation among so many colonies. It adopted a series of resolutions protesting the new tax law and other new policies, such as the trials of accused smugglers by Vice-Admiralty courts. British businessmen hurt by the colonial boycott pressured Parliament into repealing the Stamp Act in 1766. At the same time, Parliament reaffirmed its right to pass laws for the colonies.
Moreover, the colonists argued that the law violated the English constitution. One of the rights guaranteed by the constitution, they said, was “That no man can justly take the Property of another without his consent.” By taxing the colonists, the British government was taking some of their property. The colonists could consent to this only through their elected representatives. Since the colonists elected no representative to Parliament, its members had no rights to tax them. Of course, the British politicians did not support the argument of the colonists they thought that they were virtually” represented by members from other places, who looked out for the interest of the parts of the empire as well as the whole. The idea of “virtual” representation made no sense to most Americans. They were used to actual representation by men elected from the localities that they were supposed to represent.
In 1766 with business starting to feel the effects of the colonists’ refusal to buy British goods, Parliament decided to repeal the Stamp Act. First, however, it passed the Declaratory Act, which said that Parliament had full power to make laws “to bind the colonies and people of America. in all cases whatever”.
The British authorities in London assumed incorrectly that the Americans objected to “internal” taxes like the Stamp Act but would be willing to accept “external “taxes. Accordingly, in 1767 Parliament imposed the so-called Townshend duties on colonial imports of lead, paint, paper, glass, and tea. Like the stamp duties, these were intended to raise revenue. Unlike the stamp taxes, they were to be collected before the goods entered the colonies. In that sense, they were external. The Townshend duties caused no such uproar as the Stamp Act, but they seemed equally unconstitutional to the colonists. As they seemed that Parliament could levy external duties, but only to regulate trade, not to raise revenue. Once again, merchants agreed to import no goods from Britain and the sons of Liberty threatened violence to all who failed to cooperate.
Soon the British government further angered the colonists. The colonist’s assemblies had not fully obeyed the “Quartering Act” and Parliament singled out the New York assembly for punishment. In 1767, it refused to recognize any of the assembly’s actions until full support should be provided for the British troops quartered in the colony by punishing only one of them, Parliament had hoped to divide the American colonies but the others quickly expressed their sympathy with New York.
British Customs Commissioners
That same year the government appointed a special board of British Customs Commissioners. It was to be located in Boston instead of London to assure the collection of duties and better to deal with smuggling. The Commissioners soon made themselves unpopular, ordering sudden raids and seizing ships on technicalities. Evey seizure meant money for the Commissioners since they received one-third of the values of the cargo. To protect the Commissioners, troops were sent to Boston. The local Sons of Liberty under Samuel Adams, made life miserable for the soldiers, standing guard in front of the customs house. On March 5, 1770, a jeering crowd led by Crispus Attucks, a black seaman, threw rocks and snowballs at the ten men on duty, as crowds often had done before. This time the soldiers started firing. Several in the crowd, including Attucks, were killed, in what Americans afterward called the Boston Massacre. Already, merchants in Britain were demanding repeal of the Townshend duties because they were hurting business. In 1770, parliament repealed all the duties except the one on tea. Parliament hoped that this one would raise some money as well as remind the colonists of the powers that had been claimed in the Declaratory Act.
Period of Colonial Cooperation
From about 1770 to 1773, good feelings prevailed between the colonies and Britain. True, there were occasional incidents, as in 1772, when Rhode Islanders burned a British Patrol ship after it had run aground near Providence. Also, the more radical colonial leaders, such as Samuel Adams, continued to insist on the colonists’ rights and to denounce Parliament’s tyranny. Most people, however, were content to enjoy the prosperity that came with the reopening of trade. Now that the colonies were less troubled by Britain, they began to give more attention to their complaints against each other. Connecticut, for example, claimed land in northeastern Pennsylvania. While resisting Connecticut’s claim, Pennsylvania quarreled with Virginia over some territory in the Ohio Valley.
The most serious trouble took place in North Carolina. Settlers in the Carolina foothills objected to the actions of their own colonial assembly. They charged that the assembly was run by eastern planters who passed unfair taxes and denied the rights of local self-government, In a brief, small-scale civil War in 1771, militiamen from the east defeated the westerners in the Battle of Alamance. This left the westerners so bitter that many of them continued to oppose the easterners even after the struggle with Britain had been renewed. On the whole, however, the renewal of the dispute with the British brought about closer cooperation and greater unity among the colonies than had ever before existed.
The Tea Act
The East India Company was a great Corporation that controlled the government as well as the commerce of Britain’s possessions in India. In 1773, it found itself in serious financial trouble, and Parliament passed the Tea Act to help it. This law allowed the company to sell tea directly to retailers in North America, paying only the Townshend tea tax In the past, the company had paid various taxes in Britain and had sold its tea only to British merchants. They, in turn, sold it to American merchants who then distributed it among retailers in the colonies. Under the new law. with the merchants’ profits and most of the taxes removed, the company would be able to undersell all competitors. The colonists, who had a reputation as great tea drinkers, we’re expected to swallow the Townshend tax along with the cheap tea.
The reaction in North America surprised the British authorities. American tea dealers, of course, protested against the unfair competition from a giant corporation. Tea drinker also resented the new law, for they considered it a trick to make them accept taxation by Parliament. The colonists vowed to use none of the company’s tea.
When its tea ships arrived in colonial parts, angry crowds made them either turn back or leave their cargo, unsold, in the warehouse. Women formed anti-tea leagues, some of which later became the “Daughters of Liberty.” In Boston harbor, the fallowers of Samuel Adams, disguised as Indians, boarded the ships and threw the tea into the harbor.
As punishment for the “Boston Tea Party,” British government struck at the Bostonians with four laws that became known as the “Intolerable Acts” (1774). One closed the port of Boston to all shipping except military supplies and shipments of food and fuel cleared by customs officials.
Another decreased the power of the Massachusetts assembly and restricted right of the people to hold town meetings. A third limited the power of the colony’s courts. It provided that customs officers and royal officials, when accused of murder while carrying out their duties, could be tried in Britain. The other authorized the quartering of troops among the people as well as in the barracks that the colony had provided.
Quebec Act of 1774
Still another British measure that Americans saw as a threat to their interests was the Quebec Act 1774. It set up a civil government and draw boundaries for the province of Quebec, which had been ruled by a military government since 1763. The new Quebec government was to have no elected assembly; it was to include certain features of French law, and it was to favor the Catholic Church. The boundaries were to include the area west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the Ohio River. Britain intended to provide for Quebec an orderly government that would be acceptable to the French settlers of the province. The British colonists, however, looked upon it as another attempt to halt representative government in North America and the discourage people from taking up land in the west. By singling Massachusetts out for punishment through the Intolerable Acts Parliament had hoped to isolate it from the other colonies. After the passage of these laws and then the Quebec Act, however, the other colonies came to the support of Massachusetts. They stiffened their resistance to British authority, and they were soon to be better united than before.
The First Continental Congress
Revolutions do not just happen. They must be led and organized. In the colonies, people like Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams, extreme opponents of British Policy, were the early leaders of what was to become the American Revolution. At first, the colonial assemblies were centers of resistance. Then delegates from nine of the assemblies met in the Stamp Act Congress. A number of people enrolled in local groups like the Sons of Liberty. Still later committees of correspondence were formed. Local Committees of correspondence had appeared in 1772. Samuel Adams had persuaded the towns of Massachusetts to appoint correspondents to keep in touch with each other and agree upon united action. These committees, drawing up statements of rights and grievances, kept alive the anti-British feeling in New England.
Inter-colonial committees of correspondence began in 1773. Patrick Henry and other Virginians set up a committee for their colony and suggested that the other colonies do the same. Thereafter, the colonies had a network of committees through which to coordinate their plans. After the passage of the intolerable ACts and the Quebec Act, these committees arranged for an inter-colonial congress to be held.
Deliberations of the Continental Congress
The Continental Congress, with delegates from all the colonies but Georgia, met in Philadelphia for the first time in September 1774. From the start the delegates were divided. Moderates were willing to let Parliament regulate colonial trade so long as it did not try to rais revenue by taxation. The more extreme members, however, had moved beyond that position. They wised to deny Parliament any power of legislating for the colonies.
- On behalf of the moderates, Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania proposed a plan to reform the empire. His plan was something like the one that Benjamin Franklin had presented at Albany twenty years earlier. A council, to represents all the colonies, was to have a veto over acts of parliament but Parliament was to have a veto over the actions of the colonial council. This plan was defeated by one vote.
- Moderates and extremists agreed on a statement of grievances, to be sent in a petition to the king. It denied that parliament had any authority over the colonies but said that the colonists would nevertheless abide by Parliament’s acts if they were confined to legitimate regulations of trade. The statement assured the king of the American’s allegiance to his majesty and their affection for their fellow-subjects in Britain. Responding to the demands of the extremists, the majority approved a set of resolutions that a convention in Suffolk country, Massachusetts, had passed. The Suffolk Resolves calls upon the people to prepare military defenses against a possible attack by the British troops in Boston. The majority also decided that all trade with Britain should be stopped. They agreed on non-importation, non-exportation, and nonconsumption of any goods to or from Britain. To see that the agreement was enforced they formed the continental Association with members in each colony.
- Finally, when the delegates adjourned, they agreed to meet again the following spring. Thus they viewed the Continental Congress as a containing body, not a temporary organization.
“The New England Governments are in state of Rebellion,” George III exclaimed in November 1794. “Blows must decide whether they are to be subject to this country or independent.” , Not only New England but also the middle and southern colonies at the continental Congress, had defined the mother country and had declared what amounted to economic war.
The British policymakers faced a dilemma, if they gave in to the demands of the Continental Congress, they would have recognized the colonies as practically independent. On the other hand, if they rejected the petition from the colonists, they would probably have to fight a fullscale war.
During the winter of 1774/75, Parliament debated over the treatment of the colonies. Some members favored giving in to them. Others insisted that if the colonics were to be kept subordinate the empire, Samuel Adams and others of his kind would have to be taught a lesson. Twice before, Parliament had backed down in quarrels with the colonies. It had repealed the Stamp Act and with one exception, the Townshend duties. This time, it did not back down, It refused to repeal the Intolerable Acts. Instead, Parliament passed the Conciliatory Proposition. These suggested that the colonies avoid parliamentary taxation by taxing themselves “for.contributing their proportion to the common defense.” The proportions did not say how much the proportion” of each colony would be, Presumably; this would be left for Parliament to decide.
The conciliatory Prepositions did not suit the discontented colonists. They could see little difference between being taxed by Parliament and being forced to tax themselves at parliament’s request. The proposition said nothing about the Intolerable Acts and the other laws that troubled the colonists. In any case, the British offer came too late. By the time it was received in North America, the first shots of the Revolutionary War had fired.
Meaning of the American Revolution
The American Revolution grew largely out of changes in Britain’s colonial purposes and methods. The American colonists seemed in 1763 to have been content with their status. If Great Britain had not attempted to tighten the loosely knit empire and to make more money out of it, the break between Britain and the colonies would probably not have come when it did or as it did.
Once the rupture occurred, however, changes came fast in American’s attitudes towards Great Britain and towards their own society. The fears, hopes, dreams, and material pressures generated by war produced some significant changes in American life.
Nevertheless, America after the war years looked remarkably like colonial America. The American Revolution stands as one of the few modern revolutions in which the main fabric of social relationships was not savagely torn. The conservative nature of the American Revolution must be attributed largely to two circumstances.
The first is that the colonists began fighting in an effort to preserve what they already, had rather than to attain a new order.
The second is that the war hardly damaged agriculture, the basis of the American economy. Time and again throughout history, a war undertaken for one purpose has been carried on for other, quite different purposes. this was true of the Revolutionary War. In the beginning, the aim of the colonists was only to uphold their idea of the British Empire. After the first year of fighting, however, the aim was changed to independence. By 1775 many Americans looked upon the British Empire as a kind us federation of peoples. Each group had its own legislative body, and all group were, tied together by loyalty to the monarch. For the colonists to assert their complete independence, they had only to announce that they were breaking the connection with the British crown. This they did with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. They were not unanimous, however, in making the final break. All along, some Americans had been unwilling to resist the powers of Parliame ft. Al the end these people could not bring themselves to give up their loyalty to the king. Revolutions are usually carried out by a determined minority, and apparently the American Revolution was no exception. It was the first great movement by which a colonial people broke away from an empire.
In many ways, it was a model for the revolutions that were to come. It was led not be the poorest and most miserable of the colonists, but by some of the most above, best-educated, and most successful people in the colonies.
The Lull and the Storm
The colonists felt threatened by the soldiers, and they saw the Quartering Act as another form of taxation. Occasional brawls culminated in the Boston Massacre in 1700 in which the British soldiers shot five members of the unarmed mob. Similar brawls between soldiers and colonists occurred in New York and contributed to the growing antagonism and fear between the colonists and the British.
In the spring of 1770, British-colonial relations took a marked turn for the better. The redcoats in Boston withdrew to the fort in the harbor to prevent further incidents. A new Parliamentary ministry took office and its leader Lord Frederick North, had all of the Townshend duties repealed except that on tea. North allowed to Quartering Act to expire and also promised that no new taxes would be imposed on the colonies. There was rejoicing in the colonies, and for more than two years, there sumed to be a real reconciliation.
Then a series of episodes produced serious conflicts that finally led to independence. The first occurred in June 1772, when a group of Rhode Islanders raided and burned the “Gaspee” a customs vessel. The British decision to try the offenders in England, assuming they could be identified, alarmed the colonists who saw this as yet another blow to the British decided that the crown, rather than the Massachusetts Assembly, would pay the salaries of the governor and judges in that colony, produced new protest organizations. The colonists organized Committees of Correspondence to keep each other informed about local conflicts between colonial and British authority and to circulate propaganda against British rule.
In 1773, the tea crisis speeded up the final break with Great Britain. The colonies saw the British East India Company’s monopoly on the sale of tea as another example of colonial exploitation for British profits. Up and down the Atlantic coast they prevented the sale of tea, and in Boston, the center of colonial protest, a band of citizens destroyed the cargo of tea ship.
Parliament responded angrily in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, labeled the Intolerable Acts by the colonists. At the same time, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, which was not intended as a colonial punishment, by which the colonist interpreted as one.
With the Intolerable Acts, Parliament demonstrated that it intended to enforce British prestige and authority regardless of the cost to trade and remaining colonial goodwill. Many colonists interpreted parliament’s actions as part of a conspiracy to deprive them of all their rights. Other spokesmen argued that the colonies owed no allegiance to Parliament. All the colonies united firmly in support of Massachusetts. The committees of Correspondence organized a Congress which met in Philadelphia in September 1774, to deal with the mounting crisis. The fifty-five delegates from twelve colonies (Georgia was nor represented) voted to support Massachusetts, to denounce Parliament’s legislation for the colonies since 1763, and to form a Continental Association to enforce a thorough boycott of trade with Britain.
By the time the delegates to the Second Continental Congress convened in May 1775, the battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought. The Continental Congress explained in the “causes and Necessities of Taking up arms,” why they had used military force. They tried fruitlessly to get Britain to restore the relationship that existed prior to 1763. Instead of backing down, Britain began dispatching more troops to the colonies to put down the rebellion.
By the spring of 1776, it became clear to most members of the congress that reconciliation between the colonies and Great Britain was impossible without a virtual surrender of the colonial position. In all thirteen colonies, the Americans had ousted the royal official.
Disillusionment with the king, who had stoutly supported Parliament, was strengthened by Thomas Paine’s bitter attack in “Common sense” on monarchy in general and on George III in particular. Hundreds of thousands of copies of this pamphlet, which argued for complete independence from Great Britain, circulated among the colonists in 1776. The Continental Congress responded to the events of the year by adopting the Declaration of Independence.
During the winter of 1774/75 New. Englanders began to prepare for a possible attack from the British troops in Boston. “Minutemen,” ready to fight on a minute’s notice, drilled in militia company. Guns and gunpowder were collected and stored for emergency use. On April 18, 1775, a force of 700 British soldiers left Boston to March the eighteen miles to concord. They intended to seize the arms and ammunition that had been collected there. When the redcoats Lexington, on the way to Concord, colonial militiamen were waiting for them on the village green. A British officer ordered the militiamen to disperse when suddenly shots rang out. Who fired the first shot, nobody knows, but some militiamen were killed and others were wounded. The British moved on to concord and found that the Americans had removed most of the power supply. After burning what was left and fighting off an American attack, the British started to March back to Boston. All along the way, they faced the gunfire of Americans hidden behind trees, rocks and stone fences. Before the day was over the British had suffered 273 casualties (killed, wounded or missing), about three times as many as the Americans.
Battle of Banker Hill
In the weeks that followed, militiamen came from all over New English to fight the British in Boston. In the Battle of Bunker, Hill, which was fought on Breed’s Hill on June 17, 1775, the British attempted to break the siege. After two unsuccessful attacks, the British advanced a third time. The Americans, their ammunition almost gone, were forced off the hill in bitter hand-to-hand fighting.
For the British, this victory was both costly and incomplete. Their losses were 226 killed and 828 wounded, compared with the American’s 100 killed, 267 wounded, and 30 captured. The siege had not been broken. Both sides now realized that they had a hard and bloody war on their hands.
The War and its strategy
There is no simple explanation for the Americans’ victory in the War for Independence. Their military success owed much to the facts that they fought on home ground, that they received considerable help from France and Spain, and that their commander, George Washington realized that time was on the American side if he could avoid an early defeat. Washington also received loyal support from the continental Congress, although it was unable to supply his armies adequately.
The unity of the revolutionaries suffered because many Americans remained loyal to Britain. During the war, however, a large number of loyalists fled Canada or to Great Britain. Those remaining in America could not oppose the war effectively unless they lived in the few places continuously occupied by the British. The British encountered serious difficulties in bringing their superior strength to bear on the distant rebellion. The war against the colonies was unpopular with many merchants, some members of Parliament, and even some generals. Besides lacking the manpower needed to suppress the revolt – they hired thirty thousand mercenary soldiers from Germany – the British found navy in bad shape. With a limited number of troops, the British could not effectively occupy a country that contained vast stretches of farmland and forest. Their strategy for putting down the rebellion was to capture key cities, blockade the coasts, divide the colonies and beat the Revolutionary armies where they found them. The British campaign began inauspiciously in June 1775, when the American militiamen besieging Boston dealt the British regulars a savage blow at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Americans killed and wounded more than a thousand men.
The Declaration of Independence
In May 1775, the Second Continental Congress had met in Philadelphia, with delegates again from twelve colonies. This congress did not confine itself to adopting resolutions. It also acted as a central governing body for the colonics. With in the colonies, the assemblies took charge of the government. They defied the governors and other royal officials, who sooner or later stopped trying to re-establish British authority. Even though the congress and assemblies were acting as independent governments, most Americans still hesitated to declare independence. In July 1775, the Congress sent another petition to King George III and issued the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms.” This blamed the troubles on the king’s ministers rather than on the king himself. In choosing resistance, the Americans said they had no “ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain and establishing independent states.” Nevertheless, just one year later, the congress adopted a much different declaration. This one concluded that “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.” What accounted for the change in war aims?
- First, the American received no satisfaction from the British government. The king did not even answer their petition. Instead, he proclaimed that the colonies were in rebellion. Parliament voted to send 25,000 additional troops to North America and passed a law prohibiting trade with the colonies.
- Second, the Americans desperately needed foreign aid in order to win even a limited war — one waged only to correct grievances within the empire. To get the aid they needed, they would have to act as independent people, with full power to make treaties and alliances with foreign countries. Thus, fighting the war caused a change in war aims.
- Third, the Americans found that they had to make terrible sacrifices in order to carry on the struggle. The costs would be out of proportion to the benefits unless some grand objective were sought.
- Fourth, a powerful pamphlet,” Common Sense,” helped many Americans make up their minds. It was first published in January 1776 by Thomas Paine, an Englishman who had come to North America less than two years earlier. He argued that it was common sense for this great continent to cut itself loose from a small island that was no more fit to govern it than a satellite was to rule the sun.
Draft of the Declaration of Independence
After much debate, the Congress appointed a committee in June 1776 to draft the Declaration of Independence. The group, which included Benjamin Franklin and John Adarns, left most of the writing to one member, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Jefferson based the declaration on the ideas of John Locke, an English Philosopher. According to Locke, People had originally created a government in order to protect their rights to created government in order to protect their rights to life, liberty and property; whenever the existing government failed to do its job, the people could abolish it and create a new one. Jefferson changed the emphasis of Locke’s theory of stressing human rights rather than property rights. He wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty i and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
He also listed the ways in which King George II had stepped on the rights of the colonists, thus giving them grounds to abolish British rule and set up independent governments. In his original draft; Jefferson had included the institution of slavery as one of the grievances against George III. But pressure from other southern colonists caused him to remove this statement from the final draft. On July 2, 1776, the congress passed a resolution dissolving” all political connections between the colonies and Britain. On July 4, 1776, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson to emphasize this resolution. Henceforth, the United Colonies were known as the United States.
In Philadelphia and elsewhere in the new nation cannon were fired H. and church bells were rung to celebrate the news on independence. Not all the people rejoiced, however. A large minority remained loyal to the king. They called themselves. loyalists, but the Patriots called them Tories.
Directing of the War
The Second Continental Congress directed the American war effort — the raising of supplies, money and soldiers and the planning of military campaigns. Yet the congress had’ no power to impose taxes or to draft soldiers; it could only make requests to the ..states and leave the taxing and drafting to them.
1. Military Supplies
From the beginning there was a shortage of war materials in America. There were many gunsmiths but not enough to make the needed guns. Some states offered bounties to encourage to the making of arms and ammunition. The Congress set up a government arsenal for manufacturing them at Springfield Massachusetts. American troops occasionally captured equipment from the British. For most of its military supplies, however, the United States had to rely on imports, especially from France.
There were many gunsmiths but not enough to make the needed guns. Some states offered bounties to encourage the making of arms and ammunition. The Congress set up a government arsenal for manufacturing them at Springfield Massachusetts. American troops occasionally captured equipment from the British. For most of its military supplies, however, the United States had to rely on imports, especially from France.
2. The Act of Borrowing
Even when materials were available, it was hard for Americans to find the means to pay for them, Cash was scarce, and the states disliked taxing their people. As a result, thc Congress often got supplies directly from farmers or manufacturers and paid for them with certificates of indebtedness — promises to pay later — or with paper money. This currency was issued in such large quantities that it became practically worthless. To meet the costs of war, Congress had to borrow more and more from foreign countries.
3. Sources of Support
Support for the Revolution came from several sources. Many non-English immigrants supported the Patriots rather than the loyalists. Since they had come from other countries, they did not feel as bound to England as those whose roots were there. Moreover, the colonial aristocracy was primarily English. For some, fighting England was also a way to fight the aristocracy.
4. Role of the Blacks
There were blacks in every major battle from Lexington on. George Washington, as commander-in-Chief of the American forces, at first reluctant to let blacks fight. Thus many slaves fought on the side of the British, who promised them freedom. Some did gain freedom in this way but others were sent to the West Indies and kept in slavery. However, continued British recruitment of blacks persuaded Washington to Change American policy, and many blacks finally supported or fought on the patriot side. They hoped that the independent United States would abolish the slave trade, and slavery, and upgrade the social standing of blacks.
5. Role of the Women
Some women fought in the war, and others acted as spies. Most women aided the war effort by carrying the burden of two jobs. They filled the vacuum created by the absence of men on farms and in family businesses as well as doing their usual work. Women supplied large quantities’ of food and clothing for the army. Throughout the colonies, they raised money for the war effort, and at least one group attacked hoarders.
6. Role of the Indians
The Indians were split by the war. Most tribes, however, fought against the colonists. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 which limited the colonists to the east side of the Appalachians, had helped win them to the side of England in the Conflict.
7. General Conditions
Mạny Tories helped and even fought alongside the British. The Patriots themselves generally disliked regular military service, though they were willing enough to oppose the enemy whenever troops approached their homes. Fortunately, the United States was to receive military and naval support from abroad.
8. Drafting Policy
To encourage men to enlist the states offered bounties, usually in the form of land. Several states resorted to the draft. The men served in militia units that remained under state control. In addition, Congress raised a regular force of volunteers, the Continental Army. In June 1775, it appointed George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the army and of all the state militia
9. Commanding Ability
George Washing, in the capacity of Commander-in-Chief, displayed excellent abilities and military shrewdness. Washington was forty-three then, had early favored independence. He had gained military independence. He had gained military experience in the French and Indian War, and he had qualities of character that made him a natural leader. During the Revolutionary War, he did not have a free hand in planning strategy for the Congress often interfered with his plans. Nevertheless, more than any other person, he was responsible for keeping the patriot American in the field and leading them to victory.
Military achievements & Victories
1. Colonial Disadvantages
In waging war, the United States was less than a third the size of Britains, and many of the Americans opposed the war effort. The economic resources of the Americans were even smaller in proportion to those of the British. The governments in the United States were newly organized, and control was divided. The United States had no navy except what it could hastily put together, while Britain was the strongest sea power in the world. Yet the Americans had the advantage of fighting on their own soil. The British had to carry the war to them, at a distance of three thousand miles and more. Moreover, the people of Britain were divided and most of them showed little enthusiasm for the war the British were reluctant to join the army, and the government had to hire mercenaries from Germany. A total of 30,000 mercenaries, more than half of whom were Hessians, fought in the colonies.
2. Turning Point at Saratoga
During the first year of the fighting, the Patriots took the initiative on several fronts. When the British forces sailed away from Boston in March 1776, they abandoned their last foothold on American soil. Before long, however, they reappeared. That summer, hundreds of ships and an army of 32,000 soldiers — the largest war-making expedition that Britain had ever sent abroad-arrived in New York Harbour. Henceforth, the Patriots were to be on the defensive. The commander of the newly arrived British army, General William Howe, offered the American rebels, a choice of surrendering with a royal pardon or facing what he thought was an unbeatable force. Certainly, Washington’s army was no match for Howe’s army in numbers, training or equipment. Nevertheless, Commissioners from Congress rejected Howse’s offer. When Howe’s troops landed, they routed Washington and his soldiers from Long Island and Manhattan Island. Slowly and Stubbornly, the Americans retreated through New York and New Jersey across the Delaware River, and into Pennsylvania. On Christmas-night, 1776 Washington daringly re-crossed Delaware and surprised and scattered the Hessians at Trenton. Later he drove off the redcoats at Princeton. By the year’s end, though the Patriots had given up a great deal of ground, Howe was a long way from the grand triumph that he had been anticipating.
The next year, Howe captured the American capital, Philadelphia. Washington set up a winter camp at Vally Forge, nearby, and the Congress took refuge in York, Pennsylvania. Although Howe held both New York and Philadelphia, the two largest cities in the United States, he controlled only a small part of the country, as a whole. He had won additional battles but as was as far as ever from a decisive victory. Another British general, however, was about to suffer a major defeat.
General John Burgoyne, with an army of British regulars, Canadians, German mercenaries and Indian allies, had invaded the United States from the province of Quebec. Burgoyne easily took Fort Ticonderoga. Then he began to run into trouble. At Bennington, New Hampshire militiamen caught of his detachments and cut it into pieces.
In other engagements, he lost more and more troops. Finally, on October 17, 1777, he was surrounded at Saratoga, New York and had no choice but to surrender all that was left of his army, about 5000 soldiers.
The Victory ai Saratoga was a great turning point in the war. It led to an alliance between the United States and France.
3. Help from France
From the beginning of the controversy between the colonies and Britain, the French government had closely watched events in North America. The French remembered their defeat by Britain in 1763 and they were eager to avenge it. They assumed that Britain would be weakened if it should lose a part of its empire. Thus they were glad to help the Americans break away.
Te Revolutionary leaders knew well the French point of view. Even before the Declaration of Independence the Congress had appointed a secret committee to seek foreign aid, and it had sent an agent to France. The French and Spanish kings were willing to furnish supplies but insisted on doing so secretly, in order to keep the British. from learning about it. The French set up a fake trading company that sent millions of dollars worth of munitions to the Americans. After the Declaration of Independence, the Americans hoped for French recognition of the United States government and additional aid. Benjamin Franklin was sent to France to seek a treaty for these purposes. He received an enthusiastic welcome from the French people, but the government was cautious. It gave new grants and loans to the United States but delayed making a treaty. The French leaders wanted to see whether the Americans actually had a chance of winning the war. Then came the news of the victory at Saratoga. In London, the news caused Parliament to make another peace offer. It granted most of the American demands, including the end of parliamentary taxation and the repeal of the Intolerable Acts. In Paris, the French leaders saw that they must act promptly. If the Americans and British were to reconcile, France would lose the chance to disrupt the empire. In 1778 American representatives signed a treaty of alliance with France. Soon France was at war with Britain.
The French alliance brought needed naval support to the Americans. The Congress controlled only a few warships, though it commissioned hundreds of privately owned vessels to prey on British commerce. The French navy was no match for the British navy as a whole, yet a French fleet was to gain a temporary and local advantage in American waters.
After the defeat at Saratoga, the British adopted a cautious war plan. Sir Henry Clinton, who replaced General Howe in the Sping of 1778, abandoned Philadelphia and marched his troops back to New York, Washingon followed with his army and remained nearby to keep an eye on Clinton. Soon Clinton invaded the Southern states. He assumed that Loyalists were numerous in the South and that they would welcome and help the British. Approaching from the sea, the British took Savannah and later Charleston. A number of Loyalists joined the invaders, whom Clinton had left under the command of Lord Cornwallis. The combined forces fought far into the backcountry. The farther they went, however, the more resistance they met from Patriot militiamen. At King’s Mountain, South Carolina, in 1780 the patriots killed wounded or captured a force of more than a thousand Loyalists.
To deal with Cornwallis and his followers, Washington sent General Nathanael Greene to the Carolinas. Greene, a blacksmith from Rhode Island, was probably the finest American officers other than Washington himself. At first, Greene used hit-and-run tactics and avoided a pitched battle. Finally, when he thought his army was ready, he took up a position at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolinas. Cornwallis attacked on March 15, 1781. Though he drove Green from the field., he lost so many troops he decided to abandon his effort to conquer and hold the Carolinas. After this battle, Greene and Cornwallis moved in opposite directions. Greene headed South to try to retake Charleston and Savannah. Cornwallis left for Virginia, hoping to Conquer it, but he soon retreated to the relative safety of the seacoast. At Yorktown, Virginia, he began building a fort while waiting for the British navy to reinforce his troops.
Washington, still watching Clinton’s army in New York City, learned that a French fleet under Admiral de Grasse was sailing for the Chesapeake Bay. After conferring with the French army commander, General de Rochambeau, Washington decided to try and trap Cornwallis at Yorktown. Washington and Rochambeau marched many of their troops to the head of Chesapeake Bay and then transported them by ship to the James River. This army of more than 15000 nearly half of whom was French, hemmed in Cornwallis on the land side. De Grasse’s fleet larger than any the British could send to the scene in time, prevented escape by sea. Cornwallis and his 7,000 soldiers were helpless as the much larger French and American forces began to close in. On October 17, 1781, he surrendered.
Chronology of War Events
Phase I (1775-1776)
- April 19, 1775 — Battles of Lexington and Concord. British victories. The British sent troops to seize rebel military supplies at Concord. A small force of minutemen met them at Lexington. Fighting began, and the minutemen retreated. The British went on the Concord and destroyed the supplies. On the return march to Boston, the British suffered heavy casualties.
- May 10 and 12, 1775. The capture of Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point. American victories. The capture of these strategic forts in New York gave the patriots artillery and other supplies needed or the siege of Boston.
- June 17, 1775 – Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed’s Hill). British victory. The British tried to dislodge patriot troops from a hill overlooking Boston. The Patriot withdrew, but the British suffered heavy casualties.
- September 12- December 31, 1775- _Invasion of Quebec. British victory. The patriots hoped to get Quebec to join the rebellious thirteen colonies and prevent the British from using the city as a base. The Patriot assault on Quebec failed.
- February 27, 1776 – Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. American victory. The British planned to join forces with loyalists in the South, but the Patriots defeated the Loyalists.
- March 17, 1776 – Siege of Boston. American victory. The Patriots forced the British to evacuate the Port of Boston.
- June 28, 1776 Battle of Charleston. American victory. Unable to Unite with the Loyalists, the British tried but failed to set up a Southern base at Charleston.
- August 27, 1776 — Battle of Long Island. British victory. The British and the Patriots fought to occupy New York City. The Americans retreated through New Jersey.
- December 26, 1776 – Battle of Trenton. American victory, The Patriots needed a spectacular win to raise morale. They surprised and captured the British garrison.
- (1777-1779) i January 3, 1777 – Battle of Princeton. American Victory. The Patriots defeated the British and cleared most of New Jersey.
- July 5, 1777 — Fort Ticonderoga. British Victory. The British, on their way from Quebec to Albany, recaptured the fort.
- August 6, 1777 – Battle of Oriskany. American Victory — A second British force, heading for Albany, besieged Fort Stanwix. On the way to help the fort, Patriots fought off an attack.
- August 16, 1777 — Battle of Bennington. American victory. The British went to Bennington for supplies but had to leave without them.
- September 11, 1777 – Battle of Brandywine. British-victory. The Patriots merely slowed the British on their way to Philadelphia.
- October 4, 1777 – Battle of Germantown. British victory. The British defeat at Saratoga. New York, ended the invasion from Quebec.
- October 17, 1777 – Battle of Saratoga. American victory, The British defeat at Saratoga New York, ended the invasion from Quebec.
- June 18, 1778 – Evacuation of Philadelphia The British, hearing reports of a French fleet, left for New York City.
- June 28, 1778 — Battle of Monmouth. A draw. The patriots attacked the British. After some success, the Patriots were forced on the defensive, but the British withdrew.
- July 4, 1778 – Capture of Kaskaskia. American victory. To stop raids in the West, the Patriots sent troops to several posts, including Kaskaskia and Vincennes.
- December 29, 1778 – Battle of Savannah. British Victory. The British defeated a force of local militia and occupied the city.
- February 23, 1779 — Battle of Vincennes. American victory. After recapturing Vincennes, the British were forced to surrender it.
Phase III (1780-1781)
- May 12, 1780 – Siege of Charleston. British victory. The patriots were besieged and finally forced to surrender.
- August 16, 1780 – Battle of Camden. British victory. the Patriots tried to go on the offensive but were routed by the British.
- October 7, 1780 — Battle of King’s Mountain. American victory. The tide turned in the South as the Patriots defeated the Loyalists.
- January 17, 1781 — Battle of Cowpens. American victory. The British attacked the southern Patriots but suffered heavy casualties.
- March 15, 1781 – Battle of Guilford Courthouse. British victory The Patriots were defeated, but the British suffered heavy losses and finally withdrew.
- May 21 — October 9, 1781 — Yorktown campaign. American victory. The Patriots (George Washington) and the French (Cmte de. Rochambeau) planned a joint attack against the British in New York. But when Comte de Grasse notified Washington that he was bringing the French fleet from the West Indies (August 13) to the Chesapeake Bay. Washington decided to head south. The French and Patriot troops pretended to be preparing an attack on Staten island but sneaked through New Jersey.
De Grasse set up a naval blockade off Yorktown (August 30) and landed his troops. The Patriots (Marquis de Lafayette) were blockading the British (Lord Cornwallis) from the land side. The British fleet (Admiral Thomas Graves) appeared, and action followed. The British fleet withdrew to New York for repairs (September 10).
De Grasse sent ships up the Chesapeake Bay to bring Washington’s and Rochambeau’s troops to Yorktown (September 14-24). The combined forces besieged Cornwallis, who was forced to surrender (October 19) when the British fleet failed to return in time.
Text of Declaration of Independence
(In Congress, July 4, 1776) It is most appropriate to have an examination and study of the text of the Declaration of Independence which is not only revolutionary as well as historical.
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established shall not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for ‘their future security. such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world.
- He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
- He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend them.
- He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right is inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
- He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
- He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
- He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within.
- He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states, for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
- He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws’ for establishing judiciary powers.
- He has made judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
- He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
- He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legisläture.
- He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the civil power.
- He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.
- For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.
- For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states.
- For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.
- For imposing taxes on us without our consent.
- For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury.
- For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses.
- For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies.
- For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.
- For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
- He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
- He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people.
- He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
- He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the. executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
- He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
In every stage of this oppression we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered by only repeated injuries. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full powers to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliance, establish commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
British Parliament already frustrated and dismayed at the course of the war, decided that the victory at Yorktown signaled the end of the war. Peace sentiment swelled in Britain and Lord North’s ministry fell. Negotiations with an American peace mission in Paris followed.
At that peace conference, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay won a remarkable diplomatic victory with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Great Britain recognized both American independence and American title to the land east of the Mississippi River between the Great Lakes and Florida. Florida went to Spain. The British hoped to lure Americans away from a close attachment to the French by making such a generous settlement.
Despite its victory at Yorktown, the United States had not yet definitely won the war in 1781. Other British forces remained on United States soil and continued to occupy important seaports. The British soon recovered complete control of American waters. Britain was far from beaten, and it could have gone on fighting had it wished to do so.
King George III wanted to continue the war, but other government leaders were ready to consider peace. The war had become more and more unpopular with the British people. Besides, it had driven the former colonies into an alliance with Britain’s rival, France. By letting the colonies go and granting them generous terms, perhaps Britain could draw them — as independent states — back to friendly relations with the mother country.
Peacemaking, however, was no long-r a simple matter of negotiations between the British and the Americans. The American Revolution had broadened into a general war. Not only the United States and France but also Spain and the Netherlands were fighting against Britain.
The trouble with France
In 1779, the Congress had appointed john Adams to represent the United State at a peace conference, if and when one could meet. Adams was bound by 1778 treaty of alliance with France, which stated that neither of the two countries would “conclude either truce or peace with Great Britain without the formal consent of the other first obtained.” He had instructions from the Congress to enter into no negotiations unless Britain first recognized the United States as “sovereign, free and independent.” He also was told to insist upon boundaries that would give the United States the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.
After arriving in France, Adams argued with the French leaders. They wanted to control American policy, and they wanted to control American policy, and they found that they could not control Adams. Through the French minister in the United States, they used their influence in Congress to get a new peace delegation with a new set of instructions. Adams left France for the capital of the Netherlands, where he was to serve as the American minister. The Congress appointed a commission that included Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and john jay, the – American minister to Spain. It was directed to demand the negotiation of independence, but it no longer had to insist upon particular boundaries. Instead, it was to proceed “as circumstances may direct”. Moreover, the commission was to keep in close touch with the French government and follow its advice.
In the spring of 1782, while Adams and jay were elsewhere, the British government sent a man to Paris to talk informally with Franklin. To the British agent, Franklin suggested “necessary “and “desirable” terms. His necessary terms included both independence and the Mississippi boundary. He thought it desirable for Britain to cede its remaining possessions in North America to the United States as a means of bringing about true “reconciliation”. When Jay arrived from Spain he objected to continuing the Conversations with the British. The communications from the British government were addressed not to official representatives of an independent nation, the United States, but to “persons” from “colonies of plantations”. Franklin agreed to end the conversations. Franklin had kept the French government informed of what was going on, but Jay was becoming suspicious of both France and Spain. His experience in Spain had been less than reassuring. The Spanish government had refused to officially receive him as the minister from the United States let alone negotiate a treaty with him.
True, Spain had gone to war, but not for American independence. It had hoped to recover some possessions that had been lost in earlier wars with Britain. Though Spain had no alliance with the United States, it had one with France. In 1779 the two powers had agreed to make no separate peace. Thus France was bound to Spain, while the United States was bound to France.
Jay feared that France might try to get concessions for Spain from Britain. The three powers might agree to divide the territory from the Appalachians to the Mississippi between Britain and Spain. When Jay learned that a secret mission was leaving Paris for London, he thought his suspicions were confirmed. Franklin was much less worried than Jay. Actually, though Jay was mistaken about details, he was correct in thinking that the French government was considering separate negotiations with Britain. Such negotiations would have violated the terms of the American alliance and would have lessened the bargaining power of the United States.
Treaty with Britain
On his own initiative, Jay suggested to Britain that separate negotiations be opened between the British and the Americans. When Adams returned to Paris from the Netherlands, he approved what Jay had done and Franklin was willing to go along with the idea. The British hoped this was a chance to break up the alliance between France and the United States. Even though the British had not yet recognized them as representatives of a sovereign nation, the three Americans soon began secret negotiations with British representatives in France. The Americans no longer told the French government what they were doing. Before the end of 1782, a preliminary treaty had been drawn up between the United States and Britain. The American diplomats had, of course, disregarded their instructions from the congress, but technically they had not violated the terms of the alliance with France. According to those terms, the United States was to make no peace without France. The preliminary treaty did not in itself provide for peace. By its own words, the preliminary: treaty was not to take effect until a final treaty, with the approval of France, had been made.
When the French foreign minister protested to Franklin about the American action, Franklin admitted that they had perhaps seemed disrespectful, but he assured him that they held the French king and his government in high respect. After this playing upon French fears of losing its American ally, Franklin coolly asked for a new loan for the United States from the French government.
Despite his protest, the French foreign minister was probably as much pleased as annoyed by the Americans’ separate negotiations. He was getting tired of Spain’s stalling, and he now had an excuse to hold the final negotiations whether Spain got what it wanted or not. He was eager to keep the friendship of the United States and France promptly granted the new loan that Franklin had requested.
Spain as well as France, at last, agreed to a general settlement. On September 3, 1783, in Paris, Britain and the United States signed a final treaty. The terms of the Treaty of Paris were essentially the same as those of the preliminary treaty. Britain recognized the independence of the United States. Though it did not cede its remaining possessions in North America, it did agree to boundaries that gave the United States all the territory southward from present-day Canada to present-day Florida and from the Atlantic ocean to Mississippi River.
From the Indian point of view, the treaty was grossly unfair, Even though many tribes had allied themselves with the English, the British government made no provision for them in the treaty. Much of the territory that Britain handed over to the American negotiators were actually in Indian hands. Some tribes, particularly members of the Nations, refused to stop their fighting until the United States recognized their land claims.
From the American point of view, the treaty had certain defects. Some of its boundary descriptions were vague, and it contained unpopular articles concerning debts owed to British creditors and the return of Loyalists property. Worst of all, the treaty made no provision for American trade with the British Empire. For the time being, however, the American people had good cause to rejoice. Before the end of 1783 the British force sailed away from New York city. George Washington rode into the city at the head of a column of soldiers. The United States government was now in control.
Treaty at Home
Revolution against Britain meant the rejection of established authority and implied that way was open to all kinds of changes within American society. But relatively few changes occurred, revealing the satisfaction of most Americans with their institutions.
State governments were established under new constitutions, beginning in 1776, but they resembled the colonial governments they replaced. Under the new constitutions, the representative assemblies held most political power. A voter in most states elected their governors, whose power was reduced. Pennsylvania carried this distrust of executive authority to an extreme by having a committee of its legislature act in place of a governor.
In most of the colonies, the right to vote had depended on the possession of some property. During the war, nearly all property qualifications for voting and office-holding were either lowered or dropped.
The new states guarded their powers jealously. They conceded some authority to the new government of the United States formed under the Articles of Confederation in 1781, but they retained, all authority relating to local government. The central government, which itself lacked an effective executive office, directed the army and conducted foreign relations. But it could not regulate commerce, nor did it have the authority to tax citizens directly. It had the right to request money from the states, but could not enforce its requests.
Since many Americans owned farms and business, there was little reason for the revolutionaries to overturn existing economic relationships. Merchants and other creditors suffered from the disruption of commerce during the war, which farmers and debtors benefited from the demand for foodstuffs, and the creation of a vast supply of paper money by the revolutionary government to pay its debts. Much property owned by Loyalists were confiscated. In most cases, it went to property holders rather than to landless men.
Democratic ideas, stimulated by the war, affected social relationships to some extent. Perhaps the most striking examples were the decisions of several northern states to abolish slavery. Some southern states simplified the process of freeing slaves. The number of freed slaves increased substantially. Most states prohibited the slave trade during the revolution. Americans emerged from their war of independence, therefore, with a working national political system and society and economy, which were not deeply divided by antagonisms.